International Women's Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.
This year International Women's Day marks its 100th anniversary of celebrating women's successes and reminding of inequities still to be redressed. Whilst much has been achieved for women’s rights, many traditional gender tasks have remained unchanged.
Water collection for example, is still at the core of millions of women’s responsibilities. In Africa, 90% of the work of gathering water and wood for household and food preparation is done by women. These duties represent full-time work, leaving no time for education or economic employment.
Women’s decisions in water management are also often still dictated by their social positions and geographic location. Although water management activities gain efficiency and impact when both women and men are involved in decision-making, gender inequity still hampers progress in water management across the world.
In Jordan, women’s rights are enshrined by law through ratified conventions providing the legal frameworks for women to claim their rights. Frequently ignored in practice, Jordanian women became aware of inequities and began to claim their rights, including right to healthcare, education and water use and management. Such priorities stem from the fundamental pillars these play in the lives and livelihoods of the poor, and women in particular.
Against such background, IUCN together with the Arab Women Organization (AWO), an IUCN Member, started to push forward advocacy efforts for the benefit of women to develop a model for more active involvement in decision-making processes in the water sector in Jordan.
Deterioration of the Azraq Oasis - considered the most significant basin in Jordan - is considerable as water resources are overextracted through illegal wells and increasing water demands for Amman. This is leading to desertification and soil salinity. All are affected in the Azraq area, and women in particular for their household needs as well as small-scale projects which generate much needed additional income.
AWO and IUCN launched a project for restoring the Azraq Oasis with involvement from the local community, and women in particular. The project focuses on enhancing water governance and improving women’s participation in water resources management. The partnership was made in the context of the REWARD programme that aims to influence decision-makers to adopt an integrated approach to water resources management, and addressing discrimination against rural women, eliminating any discrimination in becoming involved in rural decision-making, development and planning.
“The role and voices of women in the Azraq oasis restoration has been tremendous, both in terms of finding sustainable solutions and working together with all stakeholders involved”, says Fidaa Haddad, IUCN Project Manager and Gender Focal Point. “Shortly after starting the project, the Azraq district saw a significant change in behaviours. The change manifested itself in a novel cooperation, teamwork and voluntary spirit among all the different group members, in addition to acceptance and supporting the role of women. Aside from the gender mainstreaming in water decision-making, new role models of empowered women are now leaving a positive mark on the younger generation of women in this region.”
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